Saturday, January 6, 2007

Day 1 - Napoli

When is it a good time to travel? With four kids, two dogs and two full time jobs it never seems like there is a good time. So we bite the bullet and get ready to head out. The conflicts, the planning and the anticipation culminate into an exhausting 24 hour period before heading to the airport – finishing up work, ordering groceries, making carpool plans and playdates and ready or not time to head to the airport. Perhaps the most relaxing part is the ride to the airport – anything undone will remain and all that is left is to get boarded on time. My relief at arriving at the airport on time with 90% of my tasks completed quickly turns into annoyance and frustration as we are herded through the airport with less respect than a herd of cattle. Through security, onto a shuttle bus, into a tiny aircraft, through the maze of Philadelphia’s airport and finally onto our final plane where we are reminded that it is a security risk to use the foot rest before take off – whatever! Off to Italy. At last, the eagerly anticipated sense of relaxation as we take off and spend 8 ½ hours eating, drinking and definitely sleeping.

Arriving in Rome at 8:15am we have arranged to rent a car and drive to Naples to overnight. The road is clearly marked and after a brief stop at the AutoGrill for an espresso we arrive in Naples. The view from the Autostrada is not reassuring – the city has been rebuilt after much demolition during WWII and the boxy apartment buildings don’t have the typical Italian charm. As we head down to the bay to our Hotel we see the impressive Centro Storico in the distance, an amazing view of the water and Mt. Vesuvius. Much more of what we had hoped for. Our hotel, the five star Grand Hotel Parker’s, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 135, has a beautiful view of Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri. Fortunately we have booked a seaview room. The hotel is delightful and the staff is attentive, but as we often find in Italy the room is more serviceable than luxurious.

We drop off our bags and catch a taxi to the Museo Nazionale della Ceramica Duca di Martina before they close the doors at 1:15. They say that drivers in Naples have no regard for the laws of the road and they are right. After many close encounters and much swearing by the driver we arrive at the entrance at 1:03. The museum is in the Parco della Floridiana which is lush and beautiful, but we cannot find the museum. We walk through the pathway only to find a locked building. Perhaps we have arrived too late. As we wander around, we find a small kiosk and ask eagerly if we can still buy entrance tickets. We are directed to the back side of the main building. We race to the entrance (how is anyone supposed to find this?) A procter opens the door and directs us to the bookstore next door to buy tickets – we are now at 1:11 and worried that we have come this close to be shut out. At 1:14 we are admitted to the museum and warned that the doors will be closed at 2:00pm. The museum has a fabulous collection of European procelain and the largest collection of Asian porcelain in Italy. We meander through the two floors admiring the beautiful Meissen pieces, the intricate capodimonte pieces from the 1700’s and the delightful Ginori pieces. The ground floor is dedicated to Asian art and has pieces from the Ming dynasty, the Qing dynasty and Japanese pieces from the Edo period. We marvel at how detailed all of the pieces are and of course note the similarities to pieces that remain popular today. It is always fun to see the roots of our current ceramic designs.

The park itself is beautiful and is full of couples taking a stroll on their lunch break. It is a gorgeous, sunny day in January and everyone is taking full advantage.

We have gone WAY to long without eating to not be thinking of food. I saw a pizza place on the way to the museum and quickly head for it. We get to the entrance and the exterior looks a little blah and uninviting. We haven’t been away from Italy too long to remember that a visual sweep is not always the best way to pick a restaurant. When we enter the Trattoria Caprese (via Luca Giordano, 25, Naples, tel. 081.558.7584) fabulous – but we are in Naples and must try the pizza. We have a pizza with the local buffalo di mozzarella and cherry tomatoes and a fried calzone with ricotta and salame. Both are wonderful and we eat way more than we had planned. Perhaps because we have paired the lunch with a bottle of the local Aglianico. Not ready to leave we order coffee and Grapa.

Once we leave we head to the pedestrian walk area we had passed earlier, hoping to find a few good shops. Much to my delight we walk by Luisa Spagnoli which has a crowd waiting outside. Using our best Italian we find that the annual sale of 60-50% off of everthing is due to start in 2 minutes. We wait and are rewarded with two amazing winter coats. (For me!) Can it be that I have done all of my shopping on the first day? I don’t think so, but I have made a nice dent in it.
We continue on to Via Alesandra Scarlatti a pedestrian shopping street four blocks long. We are strictly window shopping now, but the street is full of familiar Italian shops and an assortment of small boutiques. We have a great time looking and watching the people come and go. Soon it is ready for another break, so we find a seat in an outdoor coffee shop and have a glass of wine. A perfect place to sit and watch as the crowds become larger and larger as the workday ends.
We have finally had enough and decide to head back to the hotel. We walk two blocks to the funiculare (a small train that goes vertically up and down the steep hills of the town). For 1 euro each we get a ride back to Corso Vittorio Emanuele. It is a quick ride and much less hair raising than the earlier taxi ride.

So Buona Notte – we end our first day.

No comments: